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How To Keep Thanksgiving Leftovers Safe And Fresh

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- Some people might say Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of the holiday, but how many days after Thanksgiving can you still safely enjoy your leftovers?

Jason Haid, the chef and owner of River City Bistro in Fort Smith, said it's not as long as you might think.

"3 to 5 days is a pretty good time for you leftovers," Haid said. "If you want, you can freeze it, and that will last significantly longer, maybe 3 to 6 months."

He said how long you store food isn't as important as what you store it in.

"I always prefer Ziploc bags, " Haid said. "You know they make these cool little food savers that vacuum seal everything. That keeps everything fresh for a very long time. Tnything with a seal, anything that can be sealed very tightly, Rubbermaid containers, Ziploc containers, things like that."

According to the CDC, food poisoning happens most often in November and December, and meat and poultry account for 92% of those cases.
The CDC recommends refrigerating your leftovers at 40 degrees or below within 2 hours of preparing it, and Haid said that's the number one rule, especially if you have a buffet-style meal where food sits out.

"You know, a lot of these sauces, cream of mushroom soup, green bean casserole, things like that really shouldn't sit out longer than 2 hours," Haid said. "As long as you have it warming, where it has a consistent temperature above 135 degrees, that prevents bacteria from growing in the food, but I'd say after about an hour and a half you should start to wrap that food or keep it in the oven to stay warm."

He said if you don't pay attention to these tips, you could risk getting yourself and your family sick.

"The last thing you want to do is risk any food poisoning, food born illness, FBISs are what they're called, and that can happen very easily when you're not careful with you leftovers," Haid said.

Haid also added to be careful to not cross contaminate your food as your preparing your meal, so be sure to wash your hands and use separate cutting boards and utensils when dealing with raw meat.